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A child who has been sexually abused will benefit from clear guidelines that set the rules for their behavior. These kinds of rules provide the structure, comfort and security all children need to grow into healthy adults.

Sexual Respect

  • Suggestive or obscene language is not allowed from anyone. It is sometimes a trigger for old feelings and does not create sexual respect.
  • Do all you can to avoid objectification, which is seeing a person as an object, most typically a sexual object. The American culture is prevalent with pornography, sexualized media and the meeting of sexual desires with people outside of relationships.
  • One possible message is: “every person, young and old, deserves to be respected and sex is a great and wonderful thing for adults, when they think and think about when to share their bodies”.

 

Sex Education

 

  • All children, including the child who has been abused, need basic information about how they develop sexually. They also must know the terms for what was done to them so they aren’t surprised during sex ed at school or with their friends.
  • They will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex.
  • Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks, will give the child helpful words to use to describe themselves, especially if they have to describe their abuse.

 

Saying NO

  • Children need to learn that they have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Help them to practice this.
  • A child should NEVER be pressured into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable.

 

Privacy

  • Everyone has a right to privacy. Children should be taught to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior when entering their child’s room.
  • Reinforce that “It is NOT OK to look at other people’s private parts or show your parts to someone else unless there is a medical reason”.
  • Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time. Remember, this privacy is different than secrets.
  • Children who have been abused deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history. If parents need to talk about the event for support, make sure it is with the child’s approval.

 

No Secrets

  • Make it clear that any “secret games”, particularly with adults, are not allowed. Tell children if an adult suggests such a game, they  should tell you  immediately.
  • Help the child understand the difference between secrecy and privacy. This relates to gossip, tattling, reporting abuse and sharing feelings.

 

 

Arousal

  • Help children differentiate between feelings in your body and feelings that are emotions. It is normal to have all kinds of feelings, including sexual feelings. However, everyone does not always act on all the feelings he or she has.
  • Make sure the child knows how to react to feeling aroused emotionally or if their body is aroused and help them to excuse themselves from difficult situations.
  • Some children need very specific instructions on how to distract themselves when aroused.
  • Children who have been abused need to know that if their skin/body parts were aroused during the abuse that they are still NOT responsible for the abuse and it does NOT mean that they liked it. It is possible that their offender has already convinced them otherwise.

 

Touching

  • No one should touch another person without permission. Everyone should ask for hugs.
  • Do not allow them to sit on the laps of adults, as this is a common behavior that offenders encourage and they may be more likely to be abused by others in the future.
  • A person’s private parts should not be touched except during a medical examination or in the case of young children, if they need help with bathing or toileting.
  • Help your child understand that “It is OK to touch yourself if you are in private and it does not interfere with other fun things like playing with friends”.
  • Children need lots of NON SEXUAL touch. The need to feel affection, friendship, caring and love in non sexual ways. Please consult with the child’s therapist to identify what types of touch will be the most helpful.

dr-phil

 

Wrestling and Tickling

  • Tickling and wrestling is not allowed.
  • As common and normal as these childhood behaviors are, they are often tinged with sexual overtones. They can put the weaker child in an overpowered and uncomfortable or humiliating position. Touching of private parts can be “accidental” or not accidental and justified as tickling.

 

Bedrooms and Bathrooms

  • These two locations are often prime stimuli for children and will sometimes trigger traumatic memories. In general, children who have had sexual acts forced on them are probably confused about sexuality it is recommended that they have separate bedrooms and bathroom time.
  • It is not advisable to bring a child who has been sexually abused into an adult’s bed. Cuddling may be over stimulating and misinterpreted. A safer place to cuddle may be the living room couch.
  • If a child is scared at night, work out a plan to help them feel safe without sleeping with another person.

 

Clothing

  • It is a good idea for family members to be conscious of what they wear outside of the bedroom. Seeing others in their underwear or pajamas may be over-stimulating to a child.
  • The goal is to create the feeling of sexual respect with clothing choices.
  • You can send the message that a woman’s worth is based on more than just looking “hot” or “cute”.

 

Being Alone With One Other Person

  • Sometimes children who have been abused behave seductively or aggressively, they need direct supervision. This means they are never alone with another child and sometimes this includes older children and other adults.
  • This eliminates the possibility of false allegations or confusion about the intent of a behavior.
  • Provide coaching and feedback to your child as they learn to interact with others.
  • Babysitting is a choice that needs careful consideration. Ask your therapist for advice.

Updated November 2019

A child or teen who has acted out sexually will benefit from clear guidelines that set the rules for their behavior. These kinds of rules provide the structure, comfort and security all children need to grow into healthy adults. This is a very long list and does not apply to every family, please seek the guidance of a professional counselor to decide which rules can be the most helpful according to your situation.   This list is prioritized by importance and is meant to be used in conjunction with the  Privacy Rules Cards and A Letter to Caregivers About Supervision and Safety.

Sexual Respect

The exact opposite of sexual abuse is sexual respect.  One positive message is: “every person, young and old, deserves to be respected and sex is a great and wonderful thing for adults, when they think and think about when to share their bodies”. Do all you can to avoid objectification, which is seeing a person as an object, most typically a sexual object. The American culture is prevalent with pornography, sexualized media and the meeting of sexual desires with people outside of relationships.

  • Suggestive, sexual or obscene language is not allowed from anyone. 
  • Sexually explicit (Rated R or Mature) materials such as magazines, catalogs, TV programs, you tube videos, movies (some PG-13),video games and music should be completely eliminated from the household.

Being Alone With One Other Person

If your child has problematic sexual behaviors (PSB) or has been arrested for child on child sexual assault,  or if they behave seductively or aggressively, they need direct supervision! This means they are never alone with another child and sometimes this includes older children and other adults.The goal is to teach problem solving, social skills and help them manage feelings. This eliminates the possibility of false allegations or confusion about the intent of a behavior.

  • An adult or approved chaperone must supervise the youth with PSB when they are with younger children.  The adult may need to be able to both SEE and HEAR everything the youth does and says, depending on the situation.
  • The supervision must be done by someone who is familiar with the child’s problem.
  • Siblings are not allowed to provide supervision; this alters the family dynamic and creates an unhealthy balance among siblings that could facilitate additional problems.
  • Adults will provide pre-teaching, coaching and/or feedback to the child as they learn to interact with others.
  • If two children have engaged in sexual behaviors, they will NOT be alone together until they are both 18.

Sexual Arousal

Help children differentiate between feelings and behaviors. It is normal to have all kinds of feelings, including sexual feelings. However, everyone does not always act on all the feelings he or she has.  Make sure the youth knows how to react to feeling aroused and has the opportunity to excuse themselves from difficult situations. Touching your own private parts is very different for children than adults due to the lack of hormones and sex drive so I prefer the term “genital stimulation” rather than “masturbation”.

  • Children and teens need very specific and individualized instructions on how to distract themselves when aroused sexually.
  • The child or teen will have a list of things that they can do without permission, examples include: puzzles, games, drawing, jumping rope, swinging or riding bikes.
  • Help the youth understand that “It is OK to touch yourself if you are in private and it does not interfere with other fun things like playing with friends”.
  • If a teenage youth is going to be discouraged by caregivers from masturbating, this should be discussed in private with the therapist as this may contribute to the youth having MORE problems with sexual behavior.

Technology

Sexual respect means ADULTS have sexual activity in a RELATIONSHIP with a REAL LIVE PERSON, not an image on the computer screen, which may or may not be real. Make sure the adults in the youth’s life model this message in their own behavior. Technology and managing mobile devices are tricky because all kids are connected to their friends and school through their phones or the computer.  However, intentional or accidental exposure to pornography or unhealthy sexualized images (pornography) is a factor in almost all cases of PSB.  Remember, the youth has more time, energy and motivation to break through the parental controls software than the parent has to maintain it.

  • All computer time should be monitored to make sure the youth is not “accidently” exposed to more sexualized images.
  • Parental control software should be installed and monitored by a knowledgeable adult on all devices including the WiFi network in your home.
  • Provide education and alternatives to digital media for the youth if they cannot resist the temptation to seek out pornography.
  • If the youth has been desensitized to sexualized images (pornography) obtained through digital media, then they need a “technology diet”.
  • Teach the youth about how to be a good online citizen.

Sex Education

All children, including the youth with sexualized behavior, need basic information about how they develop sexually. They also will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex.

  • Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks will be used.
  • All children (any age) should know the meaning and the appropriate terms for the sexual behavior that has been done to them or that they have done to others.
  • Every child or teen should have an age appropriate, caregiver approved book about sex education that they can have unlimited access to.  The best place for this book may or may not be in the child’s bedroom, depending on the situation.

Privacy

Everyone has a right to privacy. Children who have been abused or who have sexually harmed another person deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history.  It may or may not be appropriate to share with others your child’s need for supervision.  A good phrase to explain things is “We have had a problem with using good judgement so we are keeping a closer eye on things”.

  • Children are to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior.
  • Reinforce that “It is NOT OK to look at other people’s private parts or show your parts to someone else unless there is a medical reason”.
  • Children deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time.
  • If adults are engaged in sexual activity, they will lock the bedroom door always and make sure children cannot hear sexually related noises. 
  • Adults will help the youth understand the “fine line” between secrecy and privacy. This relates to gossip, tattling, reporting abuse and sharing feelings.

Mutual Respect

Sometimes intimidation is a part of a youth’s problematic sexual behavior. This needs to be turned into mutual respect. A simple definition of mutual respect is “what’s important to you– is important to me”. A youth does not get more respect or less respect due to their problematic sexual behavior. In some situations within a family, everyone has an equal vote, everyone’s opinion counts, and the parents have the power to “veto”

  • Encourage equality among siblings by giving younger children equal power when deciding family activities.
  • Adults will teach the appropriate use of drawing straws, taking turns and rotating responsibilities.
  • A youth with sexualized behavior should not have any authority or a supervisory role over younger children.
  • Babysitting is not recommended, under any circumstances or even for a short time, this includes “watching” a younger sibling when mom or dad is busy etc.

Touching

Children with sexualized behavior need lots of NON SEXUAL touch. They need to feel affection, friendship, caring and love in non sexual ways. Please consult with the youth’s therapist to identify what types of touch will be the most helpful.  Youth should learn that affection is a part of sexual activity, but not always, and there is a way to show affection in public that is NON SEXUAL. If your child has also been sexually abused, this is especially important that they can say NO in situations they do not like. This may include situations of feeling intimidated or taken advantage of.

  • No one should touch another person without permission. Everyone should ask for hugs.
  • Children have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Adults will help them to practice this.
  • Adults and older youth will NEVER pressure a child into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable.
  • Adults in the home can show NON SEXUAL affection towards each other in front of the children (hugging, holding hands, light kissing).
  • Do not allow children to sit on the lap of another youth.

Clothing

It is a good idea for ALL family members to be conscious of what they wear.  Clothing choices and attire worn inside and outside the home should contribute to sexual respect.  One concept for discussion is the difference between being “sexy” or “hot” and engaging in sexual activity with others.  Is it reasonable to expect someone to look “sexy” and not be “sexual”?

  • Maintain modesty with clothing, wearing robes over pajamas and being mindful of quotes and sayings on t-shirts, etc.

Wrestling and Tickling

As common and normal as these childhood behaviors are, they are often tinged with sexual overtones. They can put the weaker child in an overpowered and uncomfortable or humiliating position. Touching of private parts can be “accidental” or not accidental and justified as tickling. Use good judgment when deciding if a youth should play sports or games with younger children if there is a lot of physical contact, such as football, swimming, sardines, and three legged races.

  • Tickling and wrestling is not allowed.

Bedrooms and Bathrooms

In general, it is recommended that children who are already confused about sexuality have separate bedrooms and bathroom time.  These two locations are often the site for sexual behaviors, so they might trigger flashbacks/memories or strong emotions when the child or children are in the rooms again.

  • Decide which rooms in the house are private or public; obviously the bathroom is private, but the need or insistence on using locks should be discussed.
  • Bedrooms and basements also need clarification about whom enters and under what circumstances.
  • A youth with PSB should never enter the bedroom of  a younger youth unless an adult is present.

The rationale for these rules is similar to other safety rules in modern society: wearing seat belts, following TSA rules at the airport and random drug screenings for hazardous jobs.  Even if you can trust the person, you still follow safety rules so that everyone can remain safe and no one has to spend even one minute worrying about the possibility of harmful sexual behavior in the future.